Back in the spring of 2012, I had the privilege of presenting at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Real-Time Communication conference in Chicago. In the session, I presented my construct for emergency-services location information delivery, in a new over the top model that did not require a next-generation 911 network or ESInet. Although many laughed at the thought, Dr. Henning Schulzrinne, a noted professor at Columbia University, and one of the authors of several Session Initiation Protocol RFC’s invited me to present my ideas at a Federal Communications Commission Workshop on Upcoming Test Bed to Improve Indoor Location Accuracy for Wireless 911 Calls.
Of course, I agreed and made my way down to Washington DC where I delivered my presentation. I laid out my over-the-top delivery methodology for additional data, where I effectively bypassed the voice carrier networks using the Internet and releasing Ma Bell’s grasp and control of emergency services location data, and it’s strongarm binding to pre-existing static location records and phone numbers.
While many saw the value of my architecture, of course, there were a few naysayers. None the less, the idea itself was simple and quickly solved the problem of getting data from the origination point to the resources that needed it; instead of storing the information in a carrier-hosted database, where the subscriber would not only have to pay for storage but maintenance as well as updates. By placing a static, but unique, pointer in the carrier database, any queries could be redirected back to the origination network. Not only would this remove the excessive costs charged by the 911 location database providers, but the actual information in the database would also now be available in real-time, and be the most current available.
If any updates occurred, such as location change or a change of descriptive information, these would only be needed in the internal copy of the database. With this being owned and managed by the enterprise and entirely under their control, this model was much more efficient than the carrier-based model. The only piece missing was the connection to the PSAP, however by publishing the URL to the data in the Enterprise, Public Safety was able to reach out to the data when needed. The functional element on the enterprise side of this model filled the role of feeding the URL data and proved to be a practical and efficient solution. Based on this model, Avaya had the SENTRY™ emergency call management platform developed by 911 Secure, LLC as well as the associated integration modules. Now, enterprise networks could prepare for NG 911 services that were going to arrive shortly.
The entire premise for this architecture was because the connection between the originating network and the public safety answer point was an analog circuit capable of voice communications only. What was missing and remained absent for the next 6 years 2 months and 26 days, was a secure, high-speed connection between the origination and the destination.
Earlier this year, RapidSOS announce the interoperability released with iOS 12 telephones. When those devices placed an emergency call, the location payload stored in the device would be transmitted to the NG 911 Additional Data Repository (ADR) being provided by RapidSOS. PSAP’s could access the repository by a standard query, once being vetted, and were able to retrieve the location of devices that originated emergency calls within their service area. Just a short time afterward, Google announced similar capabilities, also utilizing the RapidSOS repository. Within months of the availability, over 2000 PSAPs added the capability to their centers, covering nearly 70% of the population of the US.
Full disclosure, for the past five years I have held a non-compensated position as a technical advisory board member to RapidSOS. Because of this, I saw firsthand the value this service brought to the table with this new national repository. Since RapidSOS started to ingest data from any source through their published APIs, I immediately went to work with the software engineers at 911 Secure, LLC, the developers behind SENTRY™, and had them create an integration module allowing the enterprise also to contribute location and additional data with emergency calls. Within a few short weeks, they delivered a working model placing data in the RapidSOS sandbox, and the search began for an Avaya customer to be part of a live pilot program.
Fortunately, Shelby County Tennessee, a long time Avaya customer, was in the process of upgrading their CS1K communications platform to the latest Avaya Aura. Over on the public safety side, Shelby County 911 had just implemented the embedded RapidSOS capability in there Motorola VESTA™ platform, as well as the RapidSOS Lite web-based functionality in the PSAP serving the County facility. After presenting our use case to both parties, we began installation of SENTRY™ just before the holidays.
Finally, the day of reckoning came. On January 18, 2019, 2278 days after I presented my over-the-top architecture to The Federal Communications Commission, a live call to 911 was placed from the Shelby County Buildings Department, answered at the Shelby County 911 Center, where they received Voice, precise location, and additional data in the form of floor plans. There it was, we made public safety technology history. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride, as we changed the game forever, and proved that NG911 was not only possible but a reality.
This past year I had the honor of being in the Oval Office with Hank Hunt as the President signed Kari’s Law into the law of the land, I was invited to be part of the Haleyville Alabama 50th year 911 Day celebration and be a Grand Marshal with several of my good friends in the Town parade. Now, I was a part of telecommunications history as Avaya, 911 Secure, RapidSOS, Shelby County Buildings, and Shelby County 911 worked in concert to enable the very first emergency call delivering NG 911 additional data to the PSAP.
Not only will this technology help save lives but provide desperately needed location details to public safety first responders, as well as critical multimedia such as video and still pictures in the event of an emergency.